I’m switching gears a bit with this post as it is not travel-related at all. However, it is about food, so it’s obviously still smack in the middle of my comfort zone.
About a year ago, my mom tore a recipe out of the newspaper that she thought I would like (yes, she still gets an actual physical newspaper delivered every day). But I’m glad she does, because I’ve made the recipe more than 20 times since then. Everyone I’ve made it for and everyone I’ve given it to has loved it. And now, I give it to you. Consider it an early Christmas present, or a second-day-of-Hanukah present, or a just-because present.
The original recipe for this called Linguine with Lemon and is from Mario Batali’s book “Molto Gusto”. I have made a few personal-preference alterations through trial and error, and I will notate those for you. However, I encourage you to make it for the first time as directed by Mario and then go from there. It’s very simple, requiring just six ingredients and a few common kitchen gadgets:
4 lemons, preferably Meyer or Sorrento
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (NOTE: I use only 4 tablespoons, I found 6 to taste too oily)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 pound dried linguine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving (NOTE: We use more than this)
- Grate the zest and squeeze the juice from two of the lemons. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the remaining two lemons with a sharp or serrated knife to expose the flesh. Stand each lemon upright on a cutting board; cut away the peel and the white pith in strips, working from top to bottom and following the natural curve of the fruit. Holding the fruit over a bowl to catch the juices, cut down along the membranes on either side of each section to release it, letting the sections drop into the bowl. (NOTE: I grate the zest and squeeze the juice from all four lemons. I tried it the original way the first time and none of us liked having the actual pieces of lemon in the pasta.)
- Heat 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot; add 3 tablespoons kosher salt. Meanwhile, combine the lemon zest, juice, olive oil and butter in another saucepan; heat over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Remove from heat. (NOTE: I wait to do this until right after I dump the cooked pasta out of its pot. Then I put all the ingredients in the still-hot pot and melt the butter. Once melted, I put the pasta right back in.)
- Drop the pasta into the boiling water; cook until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the lemon juice mixture; stir and toss over medium heat to coat the pasta well. Stir in the lemon sections and cheese. (Add a splash or two more of the reserved pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce.) Serve immediately, with additional grated Parmigiano on the side. (NOTE: I do not turn the heat back on the pasta since everything is still warm.)
There are a couple more things I want to mention. Sometimes it can be hard to find Meyer lemons – which are actually a cross between mandarin oranges and lemons. I have the best luck finding them at Whole Foods or Mariano’s (not sure if Mariano’s is nation-wide or not). Even though they are hard to find, using them makes a very big difference because they have such a different taste than regular lemons. They have a much sweeter, slightly floral flavor that makes this dish so delicious.
In a pinch, when I couldn’t find Meyer lemons but just had to have lemon pasta, I used regular lemons. To me, it’s just not as good. If you have to use regular lemons, try to use organic as I have found those taste slightly better. Also, if you use regular lemons, only use 3 as they are larger and have a much more tart and citrusy flavor than Meyer lemons. I have never come across Sorrento lemons here in the States since I’ve been making this recipe, but I would imagine they would be just as good as Meyers.
This recipe is very simple to prepare, and produces an intensely flavorful dish that makes a great change of pace from the more traditional and common pasta dishes.
I hope you love it as much as I do! If you make it, let me know what you think in the comments below.